A matter of perspective

Developing the ability to shift between different perspectives is an incredibly valuable skill and when this approach is embraced by a leadership team, it can have a profound effect upon both the productivity and wellbeing of an organisation and its employees.

It’s fascinating that the same word is used to describe the method by which an artist is able to successfully represent a 3D object on a 2D surface. By carefully considering the proportions and positioning of their subject, a skilled craftsman can alert his or her audience to the relationship between the component parts of that picture or scene.

If only it worked for stick men too – alas, the (frankly) rather pitiful extent of my own artistic capabilities…

Parents often lament the fact that their pre-schooler (or teenager, for that matter!) simply cannot see a situation from any viewpoint other than their own. But is it really any wonder, when many adults seem to be permanently engaged in the very same struggle? At least the truculent teenager is able to cite raging hormones as a mitigating factor!

Having been a teacher for a good deal longer than I have been a parent, I have always approached the boys’ Parents’ Evenings with generous helpings of diplomacy – and a determination to consider ‘both sides of the story’ before reaching a final judgement on any potentially contentious issues. After all, angry exchanges are not pleasant for either party and tend to remain etched upon the teacher’s memory long after that particular pupil has moved on.

From the mother who turned up inebriated, to the father who berated me for not awarding his son the Maths Prize (despite being a teacher of Music and English) I’ve probably ‘seen it all’. However, a former colleague once shared a story that rendered (even) me speechless, and it sums up the matter of ‘perspective’ (or a lack thereof) rather well.

As Head of Sport at an independent school, it was the unenviable task of my colleague to select a team for the weekly fixtures. Having agreed a policy of ‘Sport for All’ within her department, she was mindful of the need to give every child a chance to represent the school at some point during the term – even if this meant that the ‘more able’ had to sit the odd game out too.

Well, this was met with utter condemnation one Wednesday morning – an irate parent ‘lying in wait’ for my colleague as she drew up in the car park shortly before 7.30am. Before she had even had time to get out of her vehicle, she found this particular parent towering over her – demanding an explanation.

Drawing herself up to her full height (sadly only about 5ft 4 at best!) my colleague calmly attempted to re-iterate the school’s policy, whilst also pointing out that the child in question had in fact already played more games than any other pupil that term.

This, however, did little to appease the woman (who insisted that her child should feature in the match) and she continued her tirade for the duration of the 850m walk from the lower car park to the main entrance.

Upon arrival (and feeling suitably browbeaten) my colleague reached into her bag and produced the (offending) team sheet with a flourish. As something akin to a last resort, she thrust the piece of paper in front of the angry parent and asked her which child should be removed from the team, in order that her own daughter might play instead?

Her thinking, of course, was that this would bring the parent to her senses, realising at once just how arbitrary she was being.

The fact that this woman didn’t even flinch before making her ‘selection’ spoke volumes.     

C.S. Lewis once stated that “What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing” before adding that, “It also depends on what sort of person you are”.

Once again, Mr Lewis seems to have ‘hit the nail (very firmly) on the head’!

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